With Billy D to OKC, who’s next at Florida?
Published on Thursday, 4/30/15, at 6:39 p.m. Eastern.
The column about Billy Donovan’s iconic and dynastic tenure at the University of Florida will come soon but for now, let’s break down the candidates to be the first UF coach not named Billy D since Lon Kruger in 1996.
1-Archie Miller (Dayton) – Miller is young (36) and at the top of his game already. When I was in studio on the Chris Vernon Show in Memphis at last year’s Sweet 16, CBS Sports college hoops guru Gary Parrish joined us for a segment to break down that night’s action which included Florida-UCLA and Dayton-Stanford. When Verno asked for Gary’s pick, he went with Dayton. Why, you ask? “Because Archie Miller is a star in the coaching business,” Parrish said. “If it’s too early to say that, then let me just say that he has “STAR” written all over him. He’s going to be a hot name for all the big jobs opening in the next year or two.” Well, here we are 13 months later and it says here that Florida AD Jeremy Foley should make him his top choice. There are also connections to UF via Miller. His top assistant Tom Ostrom was on Donovan’s staff at UF for seven years from 1998-2004. Ostrom left the Gators to be John Pelphrey’s top assistant at South Alabama and eventually followed Pelphrey to Arkansas. When Pelphrey got fired at Arkansas, he returned to Gainesville and has been back on Donovan’s staff since. His connections with Ostrom might make it appealing to stay on board (if he doesn’t join Donovan in OKC), which would be good for the current players and the prospects of keeping the four 4-star recruits signed this year who already have a relationship with Pelphrey. I mention that because I would assume those four players will get the chance to change schools without burning a transfer year.
2-Gregg Marshall (Wichita St.) — Great coach but I don’t think the fit is right. Plus, Wichita St. has a better team returning next season with a pair of All-Americans in Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet. Marshall just got a huge raise, too, bringing his salary to the $3 million level, so Foley would have to really dig deep into the pockets. I don’t see this happening or even being considered.
3-Chris Mack (Xavier) — Mack has been to the Tournament in five of his six seasons at Xavier, including three trips to the Sweet 16. He has strong ties to Xavier, but he would have a hard time turning down the Gators and a hefty raise.
4-Pelphrey or Anthony Grant (current UF assistants) – Again, at this point we don’t know if Donovan will be taking one or both of these guys to OKC. Both have long and excellent relationships with Foley, in addition to 10 combined years of experience as head coaches in the SEC. However, this combination only netted a pair of NCAA Tournament bids in 10 seasons as HCs in the league. Foley was ready to hire Grant in 2007 when Donovan briefly accepted the job with the Orlando Magic. In fact, Grant was on the plane ready to fly back to Florida from Virginia when Donovan called Foley and said he was having second thoughts.
5-Michael White (La. Tech) — Solid point guard at Ole Miss during his playing days. Great pedigree/family as his father is the AD at Duke. Four successful years at La. Tech to date, but he’s been unable to win the league tourney to get to the NCAA Tournament yet. White turned down Tennessee last season. The thinking here is that Foley wants more experience and success in the Tournament.
Like I always say, it’s all about timing in the hiring game. The timing of Donovan’s exit has Shaka Smart out of play. Smart was on UF’s staff before getting hired by VCU. He almost certainly would’ve been Foley’s top choice if he hadn’t left for Texas earlier this month.
Another fair question is this: Is Florida an elite job without Donovan? Before he arrived, Norm Sloan and Lon Kruger had some success but nothing in the ballpark of what Donovan accomplished. The O-Dome is in need of a remodel and that’s going to be a $60 million job that’s already set to get started in March of 2016. The practice facility built early in Donovan’s tenure is now more than a decade old, but it’s still in line with that of most SEC schools.
Unless Foley is unwilling to spend big (he won’t need to offer the $4 million that Donovan earned annually), I can’t see Miller turning down the Gators. But if he does, there’s no telling where this search could be headed.
Stay tuned to BrianEdwardsSports.com for all developments related to this UF coaching search…